Innovative New Curriculum from Spark House

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Do you work with older children and youth?  Could you use a curriculum that’s adult user-friendly, yet has real appeal for your tweens and teens?
Well if your answer is yes, you may just want to give re:form a chance. The publishing company, Spark House, a division of Augsburg Fortress, claims,

re:form is a fully customizable curriculum that’s rooted in historic Christianity, but speaks to kids on their level. re:form empowers youth to discover for themselves what they believe.

The materials, including a DVD set, leader guide, and student “anti” workbook are geared for confirmation programs with 7th and 8th grade students and organized into six units with 40 lessons, each answering a tough theological question a kid might actually ask like “Is the Bible true?”

“What does God think about war?” or “Can I be a Christian without going to church?”  re:form is designed to be useful across protestant denominations, but the publishers (who have traditionally created products aimed at the Lutheran church) claim re:form appeals broadly across multiple denominations.  If you’re curious about how that could really be possible when our ministries can be so diverse, check out this blog entry for more information.

So Is This Any Good?

That’s WHAT it is, but what you really want to know is…”HOW is it?!!!?”  As a seasoned youth and children’s ministry professional, who is forever searching for a curriculum that provides one-stop shopping, the whole-shebang, no need to adapt, edit, or improve for my purposes, but has come to believe this doesn’t exist type of gal, who was formerly especially skeptical of material published by Augsburg Fortress… I must admit that re:form is good, really good.
I wish it had been around when my not formally theologically trained self was charged in a past employment position with teaching confirmation class for a group of impossible to please sixth graders!  This curriculum would have saved me HOURS of preparation.  Read on for my re:form pros and one, measly con.

  • Format –I LOVE how each lesson is organized around a question.  How kid-friendly is that?!  When I was a confirmation student myself, I was definitely WAY more interested in figuring out “Is believing in Jesus really the only way to get to heaven?” than memorizing the books of the Old Testament.  I think it’s awesome that re:form tries to encourage exploration over indoctrination.
  • Lotsa Options -40 lessons over six units!?!??!  This is probably WAY more material than you could ever cover, which is great, because if there’s something you don’t like you can just leave it out and move on to the next topic.  I truly believe the curriculum could be used effectively in both small and large group settings and re:form could work for multiple years of programming and for confirmation, youth group, Sunday school, probably even adult Bible study, giving you a bit more bang for your buck (like about 40 of them for the leader guide and almost $50 for the DVDs).
  • The DVDs –Honestly, I’ve never seen a Christian focused one that I actually thought was truly quality.  Why IS that?  Anyway, the heavens may just have opened up this time, because the short films that are provided for each lesson are actually both informative AND engaging for a middle school audience.  Amazing!
  • The Leader Guide –It’s user-friendly, straight-forward, and offers multiple fun and engaging activities and discussion questions to support each lesson.  It’s everything you’ll need and more.

The Con:

  • The Anti-Workbook –While your students are sure to be intrigued by the name of the product alone, not to mention the extremely flashy artwork and hip language incorporated into this wire bound journal designed to be provided to each kid at a cost of about $20 a pop, I don’t think it’s really  necessary.  Many of the activities the curriculum designates to be done in the journal, like drawing graffiti or answering questions, could also be completed on a plain old sheet of paper.  The anti-workbook doesn’t stand alone, meaning you couldn’t send it home to be used outside of class, and needs directions and information from the leader guide to be useful.  Plus, unless you are going to use EVERY re:form lesson and ALL the suggested activities therein, the anti-workbook can actually become a distraction to students who want to try the thumb-war or build the marshmallow toothpick towers, even though that might not have been part of your plan.  Hint:  Feel free to just order the DVDs and Leader Guide and be anti the anti-workbook!

Are YOU sold? You can learn more about re:form on their Facebook page and it’s sold here.  Whether you are or not, I’d love to read and respond to your comments and questions about the curriculum.  Leave em’ below!

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